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Flint, MI– The city of Flint’s former purchasing manager is claiming the city administration has been “lying” about a previous waste collection bid.
The former purchasing manager, Joyce McClane, made the claim while being questioned during a hearing called by the Flint City Council to investigate a bid process for waste collection contracts in the city in February.
The council voted to hold the hearing after administration officials said the bid process was done in private the first time around—a violation of the city’s charter—and therefore had to be redone. McClane, who handled the bid process, said not only is that not true, but that the administration never confronted her about this—she heard about it on television.
“I said, ‘they’re lying,’ and that was not true, and why would they even put out there that I did something wrong?” McClane said.
The trash contract issue first came up before the council at a special meeting on June 7.
At that meeting, the former Chief Financial Officer Shelbi Frayer said that the bid process for trash collection contracts in February and March was done incorrectly, according to the city’s charter.
Normally, in accordance with the charter, bids would be received, opened publicly, and read off in a public setting. Frayer said due to the pandemic, with city hall closed, the bid process occurred in a private room with only the internal purchasing staff present. Frayer said because of this violation, the entire bid process would need to be redone.
On June 9, the council voted to hold an investigative hearing into the matter. The first attempts at a hearing didn’t go as planned as witnesses did not appear to be questioned.
But on Sept. 29, McClane was present and told a different story about the bid process than city officials have over the past few months.
The initial bid was put out on Feb. 11, 2021, McClane said. When it came time to open the bids, she said the process was done properly and that she followed the same procedures she always had. She said she was not given any COVID-specific directions.
“Once everything was OK as far as what the department wanted to submit within that bid, we advertised,” McClane said. She said advertisements appeared on the city website, the biding website bidnet.com, and that the city also notified previous bidders.
After the bid opening, McClane said she typed up a memo with all of the contractor’s names and their information, for the requesting department to review.
“They actually put together a committee to evaluate those particular bids,” McClane said. To her knowledge, the evaluation committee was made up of Transportation Director John Daly, Waste Services Coordinator Heather Griffin, and Transportation Accounting Director Kirstie Troup, she said.
On March 24, McClane said she received a memo from DPW Director Michael Brown stating the committee had been reviewing the proposals and eliminated two of the five bids—one of which was Priority Waste, the company that would later be awarded the trash contract for the city in the second bid process.
On March 26, McClane received a memo from Brown that stated the evaluation committee unanimously recommended Republic Services, the former waste service provider for the city. In the memo, Brown mentions a “negotiating committee” and recommends Daly, Griffin, and Troup to be a part of it.
McClane said this memo “does not add up.”
“You don’t really negotiate what’s going in a bid. You usually go by the numbers and all of the requirements that were asked in a proposal,” she said.
The next month, on April 29, McClane said that Frayer told her the administration “assumed that something was wrong with the bids.”
“I told them that was not true, and the attorney was involved with that as well. And I sent them an email, both of them, that we did have a bid opening,” McClane said. “And in that email was when I mentioned that Derrick Jones (purchasing administrator for Genesee County) was from the public to attend that particular meeting, and nothing was done wrong.”
After she told Frayer and City Attorney Angela Wheeler this, McClane she never heard from them about it again.
McClane said she was still employed with the city when she became aware that the administration wanted to put another bid request out. She said the bid was being redone because two items, compost and blight, were missing from the initial bid.
It wasn’t her understanding that they wanted to redo the bid process because it was done wrong until she heard it on television, she said.
McClane was employed with the city from March 2019 until May 2021. Before that, she worked for Genesee County and has been working in purchasing for more than 25 years.
“The reason why I resigned, number one, I refused to violate the law,” McClane said. “And number two, I was subjected to a hostile work environment.”
McClane described another incident, unrelated to the trash bid process, where she said she was asked by the mayor’s office to do something illegal: approve a purchase order that had not been approved by the council.
Multiple council members apologized to McClane for what she’s gone through in this process.
“I just want to thank you for the time that you have spent here … and I know this has been a lot,” Councilwoman Monica Galloway said. “I just want to say, if there has been anything said on behalf of the city that may have tried to tarnish your reputation, on behalf of the city I say, my apologies to you.”
In a prepared statement, Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley said it “would be inappropriate to respond prematurely to any purported allegations” because he had “not seen the official transcript of City Council’s Investigative Hearing.”
He continued: “However, the City’s goal is to abide by the terms of the Flint City Charter and ordinances and to make all decisions accordingly. This administration will continue to diligently work on behalf of this community while remaining open and transparent.”
The council voted to recess the hearing until Nov. 11, when more witnesses can be questioned. Galloway, Councilman Eric Mays, Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter, Councilman Herbert Winfrey, and Council Vice President Maurice Davis were the only council members present.